Today was the observance of Memorial Day in the United States. I have made a point to attend the services held on Maui every year, for the last few years, in order to pay my respects to the men and women in the armed forces who have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy.
Once again the Maui County Veterans Council did a wonderful job with the ceremonies. They had a strong list of dignitaries that attended, including current Hawai’i Governor Neil Abercrombie, Congresswoman and Combat Veteran Tulsi Gabbard, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and other county politicians, military personnel and other prominent community figures.
I’m always impressed with the speakers that come to Maui on Memorial Day to be a part of the observance ceremony up in Makawao. O’ahu is home to The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (or Punchbowl Cemetery) and is easier to get to from most places. It also has the distinction of being near Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, which helps keep the spotlight on O’ahu.
They can have the spotlight over there. Maui will continue to have that small town community feel at our ceremony.
The speakers for today were Governor Abercrombie, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Alan Arakawa. Normally, Mayor Arakawa’s speeches resonate more clearly to me and I look forward to hearing him address the crowd. This year, Tulsi Gabbard and Alan Arakawa both caught my attention with their messages. Governor Abercrombie was good, he spoke about the upcoming renovations that will soon be made to the Makawao Veterans Cemetery, but he went a little overboard towards the end about endorsing other politicians, in my humble opinion.
Following Governor Abercrombie, Tulsi Gabbard gave a speech about the hypocrisy that comes with ceremonies, such as the one we were all attending, and how tomorrow the politicians that spoke about remembering our veterans today, will soon forget their own words, as well as the veterans they praised. She spoke of her military duty and how the loss of her fellow soldiers affected her. Her words were honest, sincere and filled with emotion that one could not help but feel through her delivery.
Mayor Arakawa spoke about the community that is Maui and how we are fortunate to live in a place where we don’t have to fear anyone. We can literally go to any place on Maui and not be afraid because it is a “bad” part of town. He asked us to continue to speak to the people around us, make friends with your neighbors in order to keep the aloha in our lives and the fear out.
I am paraphrasing their speeches, so do not hold them responsible for my words written here, some 10 hours later.
After the Makawao Veterans Cemetery it was time to head up the road to the Manduke Baldwin polo arena in Makawao and watch some P O L O!
The final match of the day was the Memorial Day Cup, but the action was more intense during the earlier cowboy polo game. In cowboy polo there are no rules…quite literally. The cowboys play in jeans, Aloha shirts and a cowboy hat and go full-force bumping, pushing, grabbing at each other and their horses. It’s rough and tumble, but it was also exciting as it could be.
The weather couldn’t have been better today. Upcountry was beautiful and really makes you appreciate Maui’s amazing diversity in scenery. Less than fifteen minutes from the sand and surf of the Pacific Ocean, you are immersed in ranch land, Jacaranda and Eucalyptus trees.
I left the polo arena and stopped by the Veterans Cemetery on my way back down the hill. There were fewer people there and I was able to walk around some more, pay my respects in private and fix a few fallen flags.
I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day today, and that you never forget the reason we observe it in the first place.
To all those who serve, have served or given their lives in the armed forces.
Thank you for your service.